World champion Lewis Hamilton will head to the Hungarian Grand Prix in two weeks knowing that he can overhaul Mercedes-GP teammate and fierce rival Nico Rosberg in their Formula 1 title battle.
All the momentum is with the Briton after he romped to victory at Silverstone on Sunday for his fourth win in the last five races to move menacingly within a point of the German, who was demoted from runner-up to third for a breach of the rules governing radio communication.
“It’s mesmerising to see so many people so cheerful,” said Hamilton, reflecting on the acclaim of 130,000 fans at his home race, where Rosberg was booed on the podium – just as Hamilton was in Austria earlier this month.
“Just seeing how positive everyone was, the constant love that’s shown. I really feel like we did it together. It is a long journey we have been on, and there is real love there.”
Having equalled fellow Briton Nigel Mansell’s record of four Silverstone wins by completing a hat-trick, it was apt to hear the defending three-time champion talking about the same kind of “people power” that powered the 1992 world champion to his triumphs.
And seven days after chastising Hamilton for his part in a “brainless” move that saw him crash with Rosberg on the final lap of the Austrian victory, his Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff was eulogising him for his unmatched elan and speed in the wet conditions.
“Lewis stormed away at the beginning,” Wolff said. “He had the right pace and he just walked over the water. On a day like this, Lewis Hamilton is unstoppable.”
On the first racing lap after the safety car – out because of the heavy rain – had withdrawn, Hamilton surged into a lead of 3.6 seconds.
He attributed his speed to the support of the Silverstone crowd. It helps, too, when you are racing in the fastest car in the sport.
“I am really happy because it is so easy to come into this weekend with the wrong energy,” he said. “But to come in feeling fresh, powerful, strong and confident and then to deliver is what I plan to do every weekend.
“This has been the best week of the year, without doubt.”
Rosberg, who once enjoyed a championship lead of 43 points in this topsy-turvy season, may not agree.
Having been outpaced by Hamilton, he fought and won a battle with Dutch teenager Max Verstappen of Red Bull for second, only to have it taken from him for receiving instructions on how to solve a gearbox problem.
That short and seemingly innocuous radio dialogue led to a stewards’ inquiry and a 10-second time penalty that pushed him down to third, behind the promoted Verstappen.
Mercedes quickly gave notice that it intended to appeal and has until Thursday evening to do so. Mercedes believe that the chat was to resolve a technical safety issue and did not infringe the strict rules on “driver coaching”.
For Hamilton and Rosberg, once good friends but now more like sworn enemies, it is a reversal of fortunes following the opening five races of the season, when the German was dominant.
“I really feel that since that low, after Barcelona [where Hamilton and Rosberg crashed and retired on the opening lap], I was able to cultivate a very positive and strong mental attitude and that’s what I have today,” Hamilton said.
“That’s how I’ve won as many races as I have and it’s something I plan to continue.”
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